Considering Our Political Hopes and Dreams

Canada’s 44th federal election will be taking place on September 20th. We heard the news last week as Prime Minister Trudeau went to the Governor General Mary Simon to dissolve the current parliament and set us on track to decide again who will govern us. The Prime Minister has surely taken criticism for his stance on wanting an election to get a majority. This is happening in a political environment where all of his legislation was getting passed with the help of the NDP or Bloc. Needless to say, it’s all water under the bridge now. Our political leaders are off traveling around the country trying to get your vote.

It’s a different campaign and I really don’t need to tell you why. Covid 19 is still with us, and the deadly Delta variant continues to make things challenging. The idea of politicians making it worse doesn’t pass the smell test. Elections Canada is expecting many Canadians to vote by mail for the first time, as a caution and a deferral to the dangerous Delta variant. We shall see, makes sense to me.

Over my career writing this column, which will be 35 years this year, I’ve been quite critical of various politicians and the agricultural policies that they espouse. However, in later years, not so much. I’m not happy with Canadian agricultural policy, and increasingly I think that will never change. However, taking it out on individuals, whether they be Liberal, Conservative or NDP is a bit of an end game. Mostly these are diligent Canadians trying to do the best they can and might even believe in the agricultural policy they purport. It is one thing to criticize the policies but leave the individuals alone. As I’ve grown older, I see this much clearer. In Canada when it comes to agricultural policy, the political lines are blurred, especially when it comes to Eastern Canada. There hasn’t been much difference whoever is elected.

It was brought up to me today about how the female Canadian federal agriculture minister from Quebec was doing. It was brought up somewhat tongue in cheek as for years, I wrote that I wanted an agriculture minister who was female and from Quebec. Little did I know, that on March 1st, 2019, French Canadian Marie-Claud Bibeau was made minister of agriculture. Right off the mark, my Quebec followers chimed in and said, Phil, you got your wish. I guess that put me on the hot seat. 2.5 years later, I’m still there.

I’ve always wanted an agricultural safety net that works. However, I’ve never got it and I think it’s unlikely that I will. The rot was started back in the Jean Chretien era, made worse under Prime Minister Harper and sustained by Trudeau. To Marie-Claude Bibeau’s credit, she kind of threw her hands up earlier regarding safety nets saying something to the extent that it’s hard to understand and get agreement on what farmers want. There was a big emphasis on the “understand” part and I can understand why. The file is difficult, and it’s been abused by both political parties over the last 20 years. I could understand her confusion, because as time has gone on, even most farmers don’t understand either. Time has changed things.

As far as Bibeau is concerned, she hasn’t fulfilled my hopes for a female agriculture minister from Quebec. I always felt female politicians listen better and being from Quebec, meant the Quebec farmers, the most militant in Canada would hold her feet to the fire. In my opinion, it hasn’t quite happened that way. It seems to me she has been unable to convince the powers that be in the Liberal party how important Canadian agriculture is.

However, that doesn’t let any of the other parties off the hook. Rural areas in English Canada mostly vote Conservative, but not all. In French Canada, rural areas are represented by the Bloc, but not all. On top of that there are huge cultural differences within Canadian agriculture between the west, Ontario and Quebec. This leads to very big differences in political opinion and differences on what is good for Canadian agriculture. It makes the job of minister of agriculture a tough one. Nobody is happy.

That includes me when it comes to agricultural policy, safety nets, etc. and it likely won’t change post September 20th regardless of who is in power. However, I’ll get over it and I’ll be voting. In lieu of a future agricultural policy vacuum maybe I could make one suggestion. Maybe our agricultural policy future should focus on value added agriculture, keeping more of the money at home. Ontario ethanol is a good example of that, forged by early policy inducement, but now devouring a third of the Ontario corn crop, where once there was none.

Who knows? Politics is a long and winding road. At least in Canada we’ve got less than 36 days of this ahead of us. After that, it’s back to our hopes and dreams. Or have I got that in the wrong order?